By Fiona Embleton published
The sun used to be public enemy number one for youthful skin, now it seems the ageing effects of face coverings are vying for the top spot.
Wearing a mask is now considered an effective way to protect yourself and others from the Covid-19 virus. But, combined with more time being blasted by central heating indoors, the effect on your skin is pretty dire.
'Maskne' is the most common fallout from wearing a face covering. The occlusive nature of the mask means you're sweating underneath it, which leads to a prevalence of 'bad' bacteria like P.acnes and clogged pores.
One solution, aside from regularly washing your fabric mask, is to spray a salicylic acid spray inside the mask, according to skincare expert Sandra Lee, aka Dr Pimple Popper. "Salicylic acid cleans out the oil and debris within your pores preventing acne," she says. One to try is Murad Clarifying Body Spray.
But the effects can be more substantial than a few spots.
Inflammation can easily be caused by the physical abrasion of face coverings against the skin. The problem arises not while wearing your mask, but when you take it off. "Tiny cracks in the skin mean bacteria, pollution and other harmful toxins can enter and trigger an inflammatory response," says skin expert Debbie Thomas.
Solution: Double-down on the soothing effects of a silk face mask with a niacinamide serum of 5% or above. "Niacinamide is a known anti-inflammatory" says dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto, and proven to strengthen the skin barrier, keeping nasties out and moisture in.
If the skin's barrier function is compromised, moisture loss becomes an issue and dehydration lines become more prevalent. Both of which, are textbook ways your face mask can age you.
Solution: Apply a nourishing serum prior to applying a mask. Look for humectant- rich formulas that are heavy on ingredients such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid. The top these off with an occlusive layer of ceramides, such as Drunk Elephant's Lala Retro Whipped Cream. You may also want to skip the retinol right now as any additional chafing will only exacerbate the situation.
Fungal acne, or to give it its technical term pityrosporum folliculitis, is caused by yeast on the skin and inflames the hair follicles, leading to spots.
Of course, fungi grow best in warm, moist environments, which is to say, wearing a face mask is a fertile environment for these tiny bumps on the skin.
‘Alongside regular old acne, wearing a face mask can cause fungal acne around the mouth and hairline as breathing into a closed-off space creates humidity and causes you to sweat,’ says aesthetician Dr Kemi Fabusiwa.
Solution: Scan the ingredients list for sulphur and and zinc - a double-whammy of potent anti-fungals.
Rosacea causes small red bumps to appear on the face and face masks have been said to be a trigger as they alter the skin’s microbiome.
"When your breath is trapped close to the skin by a mask, the humid environment can cause the growth of skin organisms which play a role in rosacea," says Dr Aikaterini Charakida, Consultant Dermatologist at EF Medispa.
Friction from the mask can also irritate the nerves surrounding the blood vessels in your face.
The solution: "Applying a fragrance-free moisturiser for sensitive skin is a good way to maintain skin barrier function and reduce the irritation or abrasion from a face mask," says Dr Charakida, who recommends the EF Skin Trio - Extra Sensitive.
Fiona Embleton is a beauty writer who is now Acting Beauty Editor at Stylist. She is obsessed with Isabel Marant and cats.
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